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If It Gobbles Like a Turkey...

November 29, 2001

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..." (Philippians 2:14-16, NIV)

Last summer, the Associated Press reported the story of a man who was hunting turkeys in upstate New York. Crouched in the woods, wearing camouflage, this guy was using his best turkey calls to (hopefully) charm a turkey or two into his gunsights. Apparently, his turkey calls are excellent, because he certainly attracted something. Two somethings. Unfortunately, neither of the somethings was a turkey.

He was attacked by two coyotes.

People who know about coyotes and why they might attack a turkey-calling hunter in camouflage think that they were foraging for food for their pups when they were taken in by the fake turkey calls. They just did what comes naturally for coyotes. By the way, the man came through the attack with just a few coyote bites and rabies shots to show for it. I doubt he'll ever feel good about hunting turkeys again, though. Come to think of it, I doubt the coyotes will, either.

Thing is, coyotes don't normally attack human beings. We're too big, too noisy, and too scary. If the coyotes had known he was a man, they would have no doubt given him a wide berth. They attacked because they thought he was food. It's only when he blended in too well with his surroundings that he got bitten.

Those of us trying to take faith seriously know that there is a tension between living in this world and following Jesus. There is a simmering hostility toward anything but nominal Christianity. Christians are caricatured as intolerant, hateful , bigoted, repressed buffoons, our faith a mask for our own self-righteous agenda. The church is lampooned as irrelevant, corrupt, and hopelessly out of touch with the world and its needs. To counter that, there is a tendency for Christians to want to blend in. Be like everyone else. We reason that by doing that we'll overcome the perceived resistance to Christianity and win a hearing for the gospel.

But Paul doesn't envision Christians crouched in the bushes, faith camouflaged, trying to sound like a native of this world. "Shine like stars in the universe," he said. In a "crooked, depraved generation," blamless, pure lives stand out. It's true that the world reacts against a Christianity that's all talk and no action, all show and no substance. It's true that the world will react against hypocrisy. But the world knows enough about Christianity to expect that our lives should look different. A word for Christ dropped in between off-color jokes, language that would make a sailor blush, or wide-eyed stares at members of the opposite sex is worse than no word at all.

So I want to argue for a faith that doesn't blend in too much. I don't want to be self-righteous or holier-than-thou. But at the same time, something's wrong if my life matches up too completely with the lives of those around me. If I'm saying what everyone else is saying, doing what everyone else is doing, watching what the world is watching, valuing what they're valuing, amused by the things that amuse them, and dominated by the same sins that dominate them, then what have I to say that's of value? "Follow Jesus. He'll make you like me?" The world will rightly say, "I don't see much difference."

What the world wants is integrity. A person whose walk matches his talk is still admired. Jesus is best seen in the life of a disciple who is bending his mind, values, will, and body to the power of one Lord. The goal of salvation is blamelessness and purity; not sinlessness, not withdrawal from the world, but lives which are barren of deceit, duplicity, and indulgence. Maybe the church has been too easy on itself. In proclaiming that Jesus forgives sinners, maybe we've convinced ourselves that he winks at sin. Nothing that he bled to wash away should be allowed to live unchallenged in our lives.

So stand out. Get out of the bushes. Repent of the camouflage. And stop sounding as if you belong in this world, as if you're part of this "crooked and depraved generation". You're not, not if Jesus bought you. You're a living, breathing, walking temple of the Holy Spirit, and your life is supposed to radiate his light. Let it be seen. Let yourself be seen for who you really are.

You've seen it coming, I know. But I'll say it anyway...Don't act like a turkey.


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